Special Report

The Most Unusual Ancestry in Each State

41. South Dakota
> Location quotient of ancestry:
> Most unique ancestry: Norwegian
> Percentage of state residents identifying as Norwegian: 11.5%
> Share of U.S. Norwegian population living in state: 2.9%

More than one in 10 South Dakota residents identify as Norwegian. Norwegians began to immigrate heavily to the state in the 1860s, after the Dakota War displaced the state’s American Indian population and opened the land to other settlers. Subsequent waves of Norwegians crossed the Atlantic into America during the 19th century and settled throughout the Great Plains states. Other states with large concentrations of Norwegian Americans today are North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Wisconsin.

42. Tennessee
> Location quotient of ancestry:
> Most unique ancestry: Kurdish
> Percentage of state residents identifying as Kurdish: 0.1%
> Share of U.S. Kurdish population living in state: 23.3%

While just 0.1% of Tennessee’s population identifies as Kurdish, this percentage is more than 12 times greater than the national proportion. Kurdistani Americans, 23.3% of which live in the state, appear to be far more concentrated in the state’s capital. Nashville has earned the nickname Little Kurdistan.

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43. Texas
> Location quotient of ancestry:
> Most unique ancestry: Texas
> Percentage of state residents identifying as Texas: 0.1%
> Share of U.S. Texas population living in state: 78.8%

Around 42,500 identify as Texan. Of this demographic, nearly 79% live in Texas — the only state in the country where people so strongly identifying with the state they currently live outweigh every other claim to ancestry. Those in the state with Mexican ancestry made up the next most-unique group, with 32.1% of Texas residents identifying as Mexican Americans, more than three times the national concentration.

44. Utah
> Location quotient of ancestry:
> Most unique ancestry: Tongan
> Percentage of state residents identifying as Tongan: 0.5%
> Share of U.S. Tongan population living in state: 33.5%

While fewer than 40,000 U.S. citizens identify as Tongan, about 13,200 of them — more than one-third — live in Utah. Tongans first came to America from the Oceanian country of Tonga in the 1960s after converting to Mormonism. They settled in Utah due to the Latter Day Saints church’s strong presence in the state. In addition, many Tongans came to America first by way of California or Hawaii, ultimately settling in Utah because of its relatively low cost of living. Today, Utah is also home to high concentrations of residents with Danish, Icelandic, and Samoan ancestry.

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45. Vermont
> Location quotient of ancestry:
> Most unique ancestry: French Canadian
> Percentage of state residents identifying as French Canadian: 8.3%
> Share of U.S. French Canadian population living in state: 2.9%

The percentage of Vermonters who identify as French Canadian — 8.3% — is nearly 15 times greater than the proportion of Americans who claim such roots. To this day, a large portion of Canada, particularly the province of Quebec, which borders Vermont, is home to people who speak French as their first language. A separatist movement that has advocated for Quebecois independence over the past century may strengthen the nationalist ties between the French Canadian diaspora.